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Association Spotlight - American Culinary Federation

We’re excited to shine the spotlight on the American Culinary Federation! Headquartered in St. Augustine, FL, the American Culinary Federation (ACF) is the largest professional organization for chefs in North America.

We interviewed Joe Syrowik, MBA – Director of Membership Development – to learn more about the history of the ACF and the wide-ranging benefits they have to offer culinary professionals.


Q: When was the American Culinary Federation founded?

JS: The ACF was founded in 1929, and we’re celebrating our 90th birthday all year long! An interesting fact about our history that people may not be aware of is that in 1976, the ACF successfully lobbied the U.S. Department of Labor to change the status of executive chefs from “service” to “professional” category in the Dictionary of Official Titles.


two acf chefs creating a dish in the kitchen

Photo Source: ACF


Q: What is the driving purpose of your association?

JS: Our mission statement: “We are the standard of excellence for the culinary industry, advancing and promoting professionalism, leadership and collaboration.”

Our vision statement: “To be the leader in professional and personal development for the culinary community, while promoting current culinary techniques and preserving the history and skills of our craft.”

We achieve both by offering annual events, certifications, competitions, accreditation programs, publications, and many more valuable industry resources.


Q: Can you give us some more information about your member base?

JS: The ACF has more than 15,000 members belonging to 160+ chapters across four US regions. Our member categories include Professional Culinarian, Culinarian, Student Culinarian, Junior Culinarian, Associate, Allied, Property Membership, Culinary Enthusiast, and Military.


Q: Do you host any industry events?

JS: ACF hosts the thought-leading culinary conferences for the foodservice industry, focused on providing cutting-edge education and setting industry trends.

We currently host three conferences per year: two regional and one national. This year’s events will be held Feb. 24–26 in Atlantic City, NJ; Mar. 31–Apr. 2 in Minneapolis, MN; and Aug. 4–8 in Orlando, FL. All are welcome to experience ACF conferences, even if you’re not an ACF member.

All three conferences offer excellent continuing education and networking opportunities. Featured topics and demonstrations will include cannabis confectionery, culinary medicine, plant-forward cuisines, indigenous North American cuisine, new Nordic cuisine, African flavors, local ingredient foraging, beekeeping for chefs, food waste prevention, and whole animal butchery.

Our national convention will host a women’s leadership symposium and ACF speakers at regional events will cover important topics such as mental health, diversity in the industry, sustainability, and culinary leadership throughout the year.

A few of our featured presenters this year will be Jeremiah Tower, Duff Goldman, Marc Forgione, Michael Twitty, Bryan Voltaggio, Matthias Merges, Michael Ruhlman, Brian Polcyn, Sean Sherman, Gavin Kaysen, Jody Eddy, Rico Torres, Diego Galicia, Rich Francis, Yia Vang, Edward Lee, Ivan Orkin, and Amy Emberling.


female acf instructor demonstrating cooking techniques

Photo Source: ACF


Q: What types of awards and competition programs does the American Culinary Federation offer?

JS: Participating in ACF competitions and earning ACF awards are both excellent ways for culinarians to showcase their knowledge and advance professionally.

Our annual awards include USA’s Chef of the Year, Pastry Chef of the Year, Chef Educator of the Year, Chef Professionalism Award, Student Chef of the Year, and Hermann G. Rusch Chef’s Achievement Award given to chefs that demonstrate the highest level of commitment to the ACF and the culinary profession as a whole.

Our regional chapters run competitions throughout the year for culinary professionals of all experience levels.


Q: Can you tell us more about your certification program?

JS: We are particularly proud of our robust certification program, as there are many paths a chef can take to achieve success. Formal education and on-the-job training opportunities vary so widely from person to person that our certifications help “level the playing field” and serve as a standard for culinary professionals.

Our 16 levels of certification range from the basic fundamentals to master chef. We also offer certifications for administrators and educators. Certifications are maintained through continuing education hours, as becoming a culinarian is a lifelong journey and it’s critical to keep your skills fresh.

The ACFEF AC (ACF Education Foundation Accreditation Commission) collectively accredits more than 600 secondary and post-secondary culinary programs across the country and overseas. We are programmatic accreditors, meaning our peer-to-peer site visits and reviews focus on culinary, baking, and pastry programs within an institution. Our evaluation teams verify that ACFEF AC accredited programs meet or exceed industry standards. ACFEF is one of many institutional voices promoting academic quality through accreditation. ACFEF accreditation must be maintained on an ongoing basis as well.


Q: What’s new at ACF for 2019?

JS: Within the next month, the ACF will launch an online learning center. Shortly thereafter, new on-demand conferences with outstanding content in a wide range of topics will be announced. ACF is thrilled to offer these expanded learning opportunities and a convenient way for certified chefs to earn their CEHs (continuing education hours). Last, but certainly not least, ACF will continue to expand its increasingly popular We Are Chefs blog.


group of acf members sampling a dish together

Photo Source: ACF


Q: What are some exciting industry trends the American Culinary Federation is noticing in the culinary field?

JS: The top ten culinary trends we’re predicting for 2019 are:

  1. Cannabis/CBD-infused drinks
  2. Cannabis/CBD-infused food
  3. Zero-waste cooking
  4. Globally inspired breakfast dishes
  5. Global flavors in kids’ meals
  6. Use of hyper-local ingredients
  7. New cuts of meat
  8. Vegetable-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine
  9. Chef-driven fast casual concepts
  10. Craft/artisan/locally produced spirits

Regarding #3, the ACF is collaborating on a global scale with Worldchefs – a dynamic global network of more than 8 million chefs in 92 countries – to reduce food waste in 2019 and beyond.

By Natalie Winzer, iHire | February 13, 2019
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